Foods That Prevent Iron Absorption

Updated April 17, 2017

Iron deficiency is the most widespread type of nutrition issue affecting people today. It is also the No. 1 reason for a diagnosis of anaemia. It is important to know that although iron deficiency and anaemia are often thought of as synonyms, they are not. Iron deficiency is related to depleted stores of iron that do not create a functional health impairment. Anemia, on the other hand, does have implications for functional issues with some organs in the body. There are a number of foods that may prevent iron absorption.

Black and Green Tea

The tannins found in teas play a key role in preventing iron from being absorbed in foods. Drinking black or green tea with a meal significantly reduces the body's ability to absorb the natural iron in the foods eaten. It is recommended that black and green teas be avoided for at least two hours after eating.

Dairy Products

Dairy products, such as milk, eggs and cheese, have been linked to issues with the absorption of iron. The real culprit appears to be the calcium that is a natural part of dairy products. It is recommended that calcium supplements not be taken with meals -- just to be safe.

Breads and Cereals

The phytates or phytic acids found in whole grains are linked to decreased iron absorption. Bread and cereal are foods made with whole grains, and consumption of these foods create the risk of preventing iron absorption. Some nuts, seeds and beans also have phytates or phytic acids and may cause iron absorption issues. Soaking beans for eight or more hours is an effective strategy to reduce the amount of phytates they contain.


Spinach is high in iron unless it is consumed with other foods that reduce its absorption. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that 1 cup of spinach has the potential of providing the body with 3.5 mg. of iron. It is the oxalic acid in spinach that affects the absorption of iron. For spinach to provide all of its potential iron, it has to be eaten in combination with foods such as meat, oranges, strawberries and broccoli.

Swiss Chard

Swiss chard is a leafy, green vegetable that is typically high in iron. This vegetable is like spinach in that it needs be combined with other foods so the body can absorb the iron it contains and prevent iron deficiency. Foods high in citric acid support the iron absorption in Swiss chard. Oranges, strawberries and broccoli are effective companion foods when eating Swiss chard.

Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes are a good source of a number of vital nutritional elements such as vitamin A and antioxidants. Sweet potatoes contain oxalic acid, which is known to prevent iron absorption. Eating foods high in citric acid helps the body absorb the iron. If you have a tendency toward being iron deficient or anaemic, avoid sweet potatoes.

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About the Author

Mary Johnson-Gerard began writing professionally in 1975 and expanded to writing online in 2003. She has been published on the Frenzyness Divorce Blog and on Neumind International Pte Ltd. Her book "When Divorce Hurts Too Long—Ouch" was published in 2009. Johnson-Gerard holds a doctorate in educational psychology from the University of Missouri.